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November 18, 2017

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Police: Officer unintentionally shot woman as he fired at armed man

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Steve Marcus

Metro Police Lt. Leon Desimone, left, and Assistant Sheriff Tom Roberts watch an officer’s body-camera video during a news conference at police headquarters Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. Police discussed details about a Nov. 11, 2017, officer-involved shooting in the 700 block of Pyle Avenue.

Updated Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017 | 7 p.m.

Police Discuss Nov. 11 Shooting

Assistant Sheriff Tom Roberts speaks during a news conference at Metro Police headquarters Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. Police discussed details about the Nov. 11, 2017 officer-involved shooting that occurred at 780 East Pyle Avenue. Launch slideshow »

After four officer-fired rounds rang out outside a Silverado Ranch-area convenience store Saturday evening, an armed man went down, and his wife, who he was in a physical struggle with him over his gun, exclaimed that she’d been hit.

The bullet, shot by Officer David Nesheiwat, 33, went through Phillip Pitts’ arm and into her stomach, Clark County Assistant Sheriff Tom Roberts said Tuesday.

As Pitts, 41, pressed the gun against the woman's stomach, Nesheiwat shot twice, knocking the suspect to the ground, Roberts said. While down, Pitts kept the gun pointed at the woman, prompting the officer to pull the trigger twice more.

The unidentified woman underwent surgery and survived at University Medical Center, while Pitts died there moments after the shooting.

This was the 21st shooting involving Metro officers this year, compared with seven during the same time last year, Roberts said.

The shooting and dramatic moments that preceded it were captured on officer-worn cameras and broadcast Tuesday.

A concerned citizen called 911 at 5:34 p.m. to report that a man, who was possibly armed with a gun, was choking a woman outside the store, 780 Pyle Ave., near Pollock Drive, Roberts said. Surveillance video shows a physical struggle between the couple.

An officer, who was not identified, arrives first. "What's going on?" he yells. "What's that in your hand? Drop your gun!"

He then directs his attention to the woman, who is crying and screaming, "Step away from him. Step away. Step away from him now. Step away from her!"

At some point during the wrestling for the gun, Pitts points the gun to his head and says he's going to shoot himself, Roberts said. The woman presumably pleads for him not to do it.

"Sir, get on the ground! Put the gun down! Sir, put the gun down!"

With his left hand, the officer motions the woman to come to him, while he points the gun at Pitts with his right.

The officer, who takes cover between his cruiser and a civilian vehicle, pleads with Pitts to drop the gun, which goes ignored.

About 35 seconds after the first officer drives up, Nesheiwat arrives and yells at Pitts to drop the gun, firing his gun about 10 seconds later.

Before firing their guns, officers are trained to weigh the backdrop of the scene and assess the danger to other officers and bystanders, Roberts said. “The intent is to save lives, not take lives ... and trying to neutralize the threat as best as you can.”

Pitts did not fire his 9 mm gun, which had eight bullets in the magazine, one in the chamber, and had its safe off, Roberts said.

Pitts goes down, and the woman holds her stomach, walks and sits on a curb, and announces, "I'm hit ... I got hit."

An investigation determined that the bullet that struck the woman had gone through Pitts’ arm, Roberts said.

The couple’s 10-year-old daughter had been trying to keep Pitts away from her mother sometime before police arrived, Roberts said.

Pitts did not have a criminal history in Las Vegas but did have multiple arrests, mostly for misdemeanors, in Hawaii, his last in 2007, Roberts said. Nesheiwat, an 11-year Metro veteran, was placed on paid administrative leave while the investigation continues, per the agency's policy.

The shooting was the 21st this year involving Metro Police and the 10th fatal officer-involved shooting. At the same time last year, police had investigated seven officer-involved shootings, three of them fatal.